Happy New Year! I was really hit by the cleaning bug at the end of year, literally on New Year's Eve! I looked into the abyss of what is my sewing space and saw a total mess. Granted this is pretty typical of me but while I was sewing over the week I kept coming across nuisances that had bothered me for some time. So join along in my journey to declutter my sewing space this month. I've even included a PDF calendar format for you to download!
I'll be sharing my timelapse videos over on instagram and I'd love for you to join the fun with by using #MTdeclutterChallenge
Week 1: Tidy up
This week is all about picking up your space. Don't get into the nitty gritty of getting your threads in that beautiful rainbow order or folding all of your fabrics just so. We'll hit those later this week. Right now we're in pure damage control. If your room is anything like mine, I have a little path that is surrounded by block trimmings, excess binding and bits of batting.
Monday: The current state of your sewing room. I've showcased mine over on social media...I know I can't be the only one that puts sewing above all else when I'm in my sewing space :)
All Cleaned Up! We had this rug stashed away and I thought it was probably time to cover up the bare concrete :)
Tuesday: Floors, lets get mobile again! This includes under your sewing table (in my case, my longarms as well!) Just focus on getting all the small things picked up and put into their place/general area. I have a lot of WIPs so I used my sewing chair as their home for the time being. All of my scraps were put into their scrap box. Ignore the missing patch of carpet, we removed a permanent bookshelf when we moved in...I have an area rug around here somewhere!
All Cleaned up!
Wednesday: Drop Zones: table tops, open shelving and utility carts. Clear away all the clutter. My sewing room happens to double as the home office, so I had to sort quite a bit of paperwork and mail...thankfully lots of it could be recycled.
Thursday: Pegboards and Drawers. I know I said earlier to ignore these items but now that we have some clean working spaces we can start to tackle some of those details. For me I use my pegboards for mostly thread. Along with some in package items (which I'll be moving to one of the drawers). Let's fix those loose ends on your thread spools - wind them tight and then secure to the spool. Maybe you use your boards for tools, then tidy up that area and see if there is a way to make sure the tools find their way home after their use. Try to find the root cause of why your items don't make it back to their homes in the first place: Are your hooks finicky to the point they fall out when you remove the tool, (try out some beefier hooks) or maybe adding another pegboard would reduce the clutter and make it easier to remove and replace items. For me some of the larger spools need to be moved to where my king size spools are located and off the pegboard.
Most of my thread is color coded..but I have some EXTREMELY old thread - think styrofoam mini spools from my grandma. I think it maybe time to let them go. I came across this great article about when to let your thread go. 4 hints it's time to let your sewing thread go.
I have two drawers in my sewing table that are a hodge-podge of stuff. I'm going to grab a utensil or drawer organizer from the store later this week and will link to it as we'll as after photo.
I like to have an old Rotary tool marked for paper, which uses an old rotary blade. I use this for cutting garment patterns out.
Friday: Tools. Lets take a deeper dive if your tools are in need of repair. Do you have to press down excessively to cut with your rotary cutter? Time for a new blade! How are your scissors, when's the last time you had them sharpened? Did you know you can get your scissors sharpened at your local sewing center? For regular maintenance to keep your blades sharp I'd recommend this little gadget from Fiskars.
Take a moment to clean out the bobbin area of your machine and oil it up. Your sewing machine deserves some spa service..speaking of which, when was the last time you had it in for regular maintenance? I try to bring mine in to the local quilt shop once a year during the summer when I know I won't be sewing as much.
I love my Juki 18QVP machine, I'm not one for fancy bells and whistles, so this straight stitch machine is perfect for me.
Week 2: Organizing your Stash
Monday: Thread. I know I store SOME of my thread on pegboards, which was covered under week one's Thursday task. Not everyone likes or uses pegboards, so this day is for you :) Or if you are a longarm quilter like myself, you need a second day just for your King Size spools. I store all of these on a shelf near the ceiling in my sewing room. It's become a hot mess during the holiday quilting queue. Once again, fix those loose ends of thread by winding them back up and attaching them to the spool. Organize your threads how you please. With longarming I organize them by frequency of use and then rainbow.
Tuesday: Fabric.This is one of four days dedicated to your glorious fabric stash. We're easing into this difficult task with just pre-cuts. Simple enough, they come in beautiful packages as mini-charm packs (2.5" squares), charm packs (5" squares), Jelly Rolls (2.5" strips), Layer Cakes (10" Squares).
The past few years I've really tried to not buy fabric (who am I kidding, right?). I'm going with a new approach this year: I can't bring in more fabric than I've used. So I've made this nifty spreadsheet to tally up your Pre-Cuts (Charm packs, Jelly Rolls, etc.), Fat Quarters (FQ), Half Yards (HY), and Yardage. It doesn't get into the details of designer, line, etc. It's strictly to keep track of how much fabric you have at home, when you use some and if you bring more in you can add a line item to ensure that you are in balance. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Here is what I have currently for my stash! Time to get to sewing!
Wednesday: Fabric. Fat Quarters, last fall I came across this amazing tutorial for storing your fat quarters. Check out Two Crazy Stitches tutorial here. That same day I snapped up these clear bins from Target that they mention in the tutorial. They are extremely affordable and showcase off your beautiful fat quarters.
Thursday: Fabric. Half Yards, I utilized the same tutorial used yesterday for this. Treating the half yard straight off the bolt as if it where the Fat Quarter. I used the same size bins from target but only half the amount of fabric cuts would fit.
Friday: Fabric. Yardage, we've all got yardage for backings, or maybe that half-attempt into garment making that you went overboard on apparel fabric shopping... No? Just me? I'll get back to garments sometime! Either way lets refresh our minds of what's in that rubbermaid storing all of those glorious yards of fabric, and make sure to note how many yards you truly have. I like to make a mark in the salvage with a Frixion pen or using a piece of paper and safety pin would work as well.
Week 3: Scraps
This week scares me just to write about...but here we are, the infamous scrap pile that I've avoided for maybe a year or more? Maybe having a pattern to use those scraps for will give us some motivation. My friend Emily has a killer FREE pattern that is geared to all scraps! Head over to check her blog out here and to download the pattern.
Monday: Let's dive in and sort the scrap pile by relative size. If you have the nerve you can even go ahead and iron your scraps, otherwise we'll iron in the following days. The goal for today is only to sort your scraps into size piles that could garner you trimmed down 2.5" squares, 3.5" squares, 5" squares, 2.5" strips and then string scraps.
Tuesday: 5" squares. The dimension of a charm pack square is 5"x5" so why not make our own charm pack out of our beautiful scraps? I think you get the jist by day 3, but iron the scraps, stack them on our cutting at (about 5 layers is what I'm comfortable with) and then trim down to 5".
Wednesday: 3.5" Squares. I've come across this dimension in quite a few quilt patterns (designed by Modern Handcraft and Quilty Love to name a few). There are quite a few scraps that are in the middle of 2.5" and 5" squares that I like to trim to the 3.5" square dimension to reduce waste. Once again start with ironing these scraps out, stack them up and then trim them down to 3.5" square
Thursday: 2.5" Squares. Grab that pile you think could make 2.5" squares. Let's iron all of those bits out and then get to trimming. I like to stack ~5 layers of fabric together and then trim them all at once. If you are planning to use Emily's Scrap Stash Plus quilt pattern you will want to trim the 2.5" x the required size in her pattern. If you aren't stick with the 2.5" square since it's a common dimension found in patterns. Store your newly cut scraps into a storage bin for future use.
Friday: 2.5" strips, maybe these are cut-offs from binding or other projects. If you have enough to make a scrappy binding then by all means go ahead and prep some binding fabric to have at the ready. If my scraps are on the smaller side, I like to trim them to 2.5"x4.5" and 2.5"x6.5" I have a few different designs that utilize this sizing (Not So XOXO and Diamond Plate).
Now that we've dug through and salvaged all that we can, you can either utilize the string scraps that remain and turn them into a String Quilt. Or if you'd rather take the easy route (my preferred route) you could make a Floor Pouf and start to stash non-usable scraps to fill it up! We use them as foot rests around the house and to know that I'm preventing further waste makes me pretty darn happy :)
Week 4: Works in Progress (WIP)
Monday: Locate all of your works in progress. Easy enough right? Maybe not! I know some of us have magical closets that can store a large quantity of WIPs! Try to get them all out in the open.
Tuesday: Take inventory. Use this handy project tracker from Patchwork and Poodles. Note where you are at in the project and if you have everything you need to complete the quilt/project.
Wednesday: Prioritize. I believe that quilt making has seasons. Sometimes your fired up about a certain projects and then that fire can fizzle out quickly. Take a look at your WIPs, which ones get you excited? Get it down to three, I believe anything is manageable in threes.
Thursday: Storage. Put those three WIPs out into your sewing space, maybe you need a clear plastic bin with a lid to keep them safe from small hands but keep them out and you'll be inspired to continue to work on them. If you have more than three WIPs, organize the others in whatever you have available to you, maybe you want more clear plastic bins to make your closet pretty. Or maybe it's plastic grocery bags for each project but keep them organized and separate. Then put them into a rubbermaid tote or in a cardbox to ensure they stay organized for when you complete one of the top 3.
Friday: New Projects. I always like to end a goal met with how to maintain it. Maybe none of your WIPs are calling you. That's ok! Sewing and quilting should bring joy to your life! Maybe you need a break from you sewing space for a bit, then take it, at least now when you return it will be spectacular clean. If you have the means to maybe it's time to branch out to a new pattern and fabric to reinvigorate you passion for sewing. I know when I complete a pattern release I always turn to a super fast and easy to digest pattern. My brain needs a break from all the math and writing, but I still want to sew. Check out some of my super fast sews: Picnic quilt, Pineapple Color Wheel Table Runner, or Exploratory Quilt.
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